South African referee Stuart Berry.

South African referee Stuart Berry. Photo: Getty Images

MELBOURNE: Super Rugby governing body SANZAR will conduct a purge of the competition's referees in the wake of a series of controversial blunders by match officials in the opening rounds of the season.

Lyndon Bray, SANZAR's referees co-ordinator, said the 18-member team of referees was set for change.

"Within the next week or two we will be making decisions that will keep our team extremely accountable," Bray said in comments published by News Corporation on Friday.

"There is a lot of pain to go for referees ... The fact is, they're either going to get dropped out of the team, which is a significant consequence obviously, or suffering from the point of view of number and quality of appointments.

"It will be a strong statement in terms of those who are currently refereeing at the top of our team and those that are clearly moving in that direction and those that aren't."

The standard of officiating came under heavy scrutiny last weekend, with coaches from several franchises fuming after contentious decisions.

Bray was moved to clarify a number of them this week, including a controversial try awarded by South African referee Stuart Berry to Lions fullback Coenie van Wyk during the Johannesburg-based team's 39-36 win at home to the Blues.

With help from South African television match official Johan Greeff, Berry awarded the try despite video footage showing Van Wyk's teammate Deon van Rensburg had lost the ball forward in a tackle on the try-line.

Queensland Reds coach Richard Graham said he would contact Bray after some "bewildering" decisions in his team's 35-20 loss against the Sharks in Durban, while New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika also grumbled about scrum penalties in his team's loss to the ACT Brumbies.

"I would always dispute the argument that there is no accountability or action," Bray said.

"There is. I would only say watch this space at the moment because we're 80 per cent through the process of making some of those decisions." 

Reuters